Sunday, January 19, 2014

Book Review: Stardust by Niel Gaiman

Title: Stardust 
Author: Neil Gaiman 
Published: Harper, 2007 
Synopsis: In the sleepy English countryside at the dawn of the Victorian Era, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to beautiful Victoria Forester. But Victoria is cold and distant -- as distant, in fact, as the star she and Tristran see fall from the sky on a crisp October evening. For the coveted prize of Victoria's hand, Tristran vows to retrieve the fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends the lovelorn swain into a world that is strange beyond imagining, a world populated by evil old witches, deadly clutching trees, and goblin press-gangs -- a world redeemed only by true love. 

You know those authors that everyone seems to have read and loved? And even though you read a lot I'm sure there are those authors that everyone loves that you have never experienced for yourself. For me when everyone around you is gushing about this author there is this inner sense of shame that I haven't read anything they have written. For me, that author is Neil Gaiman. He writes the kind of books that I would love and I have heard nothing but good things about him and his writing style. So I finally gave in and decided to listen to the audiobook of Stardust for my High Fantasy month so I can no longer say that I have never read Niel Gaiman. 

Throughout most of the book I was very confused by what was happening. The books contains a host of eclectic and interesting characters and told briefly from many different perspectives. Many of these characters are only in the story for very brief periods and many of the storylines seem like they are not at all connected to the main storyline. That main storyline is the story of Tristran Thorn a boy who travels to the magical world of Faerie to find a shooting star so he can woo the girl that he loves, but when he finds the star he realizes that he is actually a girl who has fallen from the sky named Yvaine. Tristran and Yvaine go on a journey through Faerie to return to his home. Meanwhile they have to contest with an evil witch who is trying to take Yvaine's heart so she can stay young, a strange woman traveling to the market on the border between lands, and a group of men trying to kill each other while they search for the stone that will make them heir to their kingdom. 

The plot was not at all what I had expected. I don't usually like travel montages but in Stardust it worked. There were no long and drawn out explanations of walking through the mountains, everything was handles with such brevity. But brevity was the name of the game for this story. Many characters and storylines were only around for brief periods and if you blinked you would miss them. Throughout most of the story these all seem like they are all unconnected but by the end it all makes sense and Gaiman brilliantly weaves the stories together in a way that is interesting and fun. 

By the end I was completely entertained and enjoyed the book so much more than I thought. It felt to me a lot like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. It had the same tone and dry British sense of humor. 

Perhaps the best part was that the audiobook was narrated by Mr. Gaiman himself. That is one of my favorite things about audiobooks, when the authors narrate them. You get such a pure representation of the story and they deliver everything in a tone that you know it's exactly how it was intended. 

I would have liked a little more action and world-building. My main criticism is that while there were moments that were action-packed and exciting it was the most thrilling fantasy story. Maybe it was because most of the other books I read this month were full of action and surprises but the plot of Stardust didn't make it much of a page-turner. But it was a very well-balanced story and was lighthearted, mysterious, and full of adventure. 

I give Stardust a 7 out of 10 

I recommend Stardust for someone who does not usually read Fantasy stories. It's a good introduction to the genre and won't get you bogged down in complicated magical systems, If you are a big fan of Fantasy maybe Stardust is not for you, If you've read Stardust what are your thoughts? Have you read anything else by Niel Gaiman, should I give a different book a try? Leave me a comment with your thoughts and Happy Reading!


  1. Gaiman is definitely more of a character-driven writer. If you want tons of action, Gaiman might not be the writer for you. Stardust is a youngish YA book, so it might not be the best fit. You might want to try The Ocean at the End of the Lane (the only Gaiman book that I really loved) or American Gods (this is a road trip book filled to the brim with mythology). If you are looking for something more in the youngish YA category, The Graveyard Book is quite good.

    1. Thanks for the insight! I was thinking about checking out American Gods. I read a similar book called The Infinities by John Banville and really liked it.